NBA Preview: Central Division
The Central Division could end up being one of the best all-around divisions in the NBA. All five teams have the potential to get to the playoffs. The Bulls and Pacers will duke it out for the top spot, but with Derrick Rose returning healthy, the Bulls look to be the favorites, but it may come down to just one game. They didn’t do much in the offseason, but they did add sharpshooter Mike Dunleavy, which they desperately needed. If the Bulls stay healthy and Rose returns to MVP status, this team is extremely dangerous and will be a threat at the top of the Eastern Conference. Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, and Luol Deng form one of the best frontcourts in the NBA. Expect the Bulls to edge out the Pacers in a tight Central Division race that should come down to the wire.
2. Indiana Pacers (53-29)
The Pacers came a game away from the NBA Finals and they made plenty of noise in the offseason to have a shot this season. They added big man Luis Scola and some solid bench depth with C.J. Watson and Chris Copeland. With Rob Hibbert, Paul George, David West, and eventually Danny Granger when he returns, this lineup is scary. Their one problem could be point guard play, but there is no question this team got better in the offseason. They may eventually look to deal Granger to get a point guard. The question will be if they have enough to beat the likes of the Heat, Nets, and Bulls. The Pacers should finish second in the Central and make a playoff run, but until we see something from Granger, they are not a title team yet.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers (43-39)
The Cavaliers had one of the best offseasons in the NBA that turned from pretenders to contenders. With the final three spots in the East up for grabs, this will be the year Kyrie Irving leads the Cavs to one of those spots. The key to this team’s success though will ride on the legs of Andrew Bynum, who has never been able to stay healthy. The additions of Jarrett Jack, No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett, and Earl Clark will be essential for this team. If Bynum can stay on the floor for a good portion of the season, this team should make the playoffs. That will be the biggest concern. There is no question Bynum has the potential top be one of the best centers in the NBA, but we'll have to see if the Cavs risk to sign him comes to fruition.
4. Detroit Pistons (41-41)
The Pistons are another team that made a splash in the offseason with the signings of Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings. With the potential of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond in the paint, this team, on paper at least, should sneak into the playoffs. The problem will be the development of their big men playing with Smith and Jennings. The return of Chauncey Billips will help them out, providing a veteran player who has won a title in Detroit and should keep the immaturity of Smith and Jennings in line. Expect Drummond or Monroe to be trade bait during the season as the Pistons try and put the pieces together to make a return to the playoffs. They should slide in as one of the final two playoff seeds.
5. Milwaukee Bucks (38-44)
The Bucks had a very strange offseason and it looks like they are unsure whether they want to rebuild or continue being a first-round exit. They got rid of Jennings and Monta Ellis and replace them with Brandon Knight and O.J. Mayo. So they replaced two shoot-first players with two-shooot first players. The moves didn't make much sense. They also bring in veteran Caron Butler as well as ex-Hawks coach Larry Drew. Larry Sanders was terrific last season as the Bucks have some young talent with him and John Henson in the paint, but do they have enough to sneak in the playoffs? Probably not.